The very first episode of Smallville brought the last son of Krypton to Earth amid a terrorizing shower of radioactive meteor rocks. The very last episode of Smallville propelled the budding Superman into his adult life as a full-fledged superhero amid the Biblically apocalyptic arrival of one very big orb of extraterrestrial death – the flaming planet of Apokolips, (pronounced “a-pock-o-leepse,” per Granny Goodness), the awful abode of an entity that (again per Granny) we’ve been confusing for the likes of Hades and Loki and even Satan for as long as humans have been telling stories about gods and monsters, angels and demons, heroes and villains. The Big Bad in question? Why, Fake Locke, The Smoke Monster from Lost! Wait, sorry: I mean Darkseid, the dark demigod of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” lore… although he behaved strangely like a certain Man In Black (billowing blackness; borrowing a dead man’s guise) in a tale that trafficked in similar custodian of light/incarnation of evil metaphors as “The End.” (You weren’t going to get out of these recaps without at least one one forced Lost-Smallville comparison from me.)
Against the backdrop of hell on earth and through an often exhilarating electrical charge of warm and fuzzy sentiment, the series finale of Smallville did what it needed to do: It completed the circuit on an epic coil of story that began 10 years ago. In the finale (entitled “Finale”), Superboy reached maturity and became a true Man of Steel. After a decade of “no flights, no tights,” Tom Welling donned Superman’s cape and soared. He wore it well, and Smallville rocked it hard. It was radically cornball and goosebumpingly geektastic, and the fanboy in me was satisfied. Well done, Smallville.
The first half of the two-part swan song was devoted to reheating Lois Lane’s cold feet and getting her to the altar and saying “I do” to The Greatest Guy In The World. As much as I love the Tom Welling/Erica Durance chemistry, there was zero tension in this hour, and in fact, the storyline achieved entropic degrees of negative drama when it tried to give Clark his own set of pre-marital doubts that involved… oh, whatever. It all unfolded as we predicted here in the recap of last week’s episode, in which Clark and Lois had learned the wrong lessons from Jor-El’s pre-wedding testing. Clark had to realize that “leaving and cleaving” didn’t mean severing and forgetting his roots; Lois had to get over her ‘I’m not worthy’ angst, however justified, and realize that she was Clark’s source of strength, not Achilles’ heel. Oliver – Clark’s best man and no stranger to self-questioning dark nights of the soul – scored with a goofy-funny line when he counseled his friend against second-guessing himself. “I’ve been down this road before and you know where it got me? Burning a perfectly good leather hoodie.” And so everyone got to the church on time. It was fitting that Clark walked Lois down the aisle (her Army father had important military business elsewhere); Clark had told her she would never hold him back as long she stood by his side, and their shared walk was metaphor for that. Clark looked to the pew and saw his father, Jonathan, sitting with his mother. Imaginary and spectral visitation? Didn’t matter, and no difference: Our loved ones stay with us forever as long as we have the imagination to see them. Again: Corny. But I believe that s–t and ate it up. Good on “Finale” for finding a compelling way to give John Schneider – always one of the best things about prim0-years Smallville – a role to play in the end.
Alas, Clark and Lois couldn’t complete the exchange of rings. Oliver – gone snaky by Darkseid’s corrupting influence – tried to rob the fallen world of its bridegroom messiah by slipping him a band of gold kryptonite, which would have taken away Clark’s powers forever. Eagle eyed Chloe (Yay! An Allison Mack-Attack!) spotted the subversion and stopped the wedding. Whew. Clark challenged his frenemy to look within his heart, run to the light, and make the choice to be the good man he knew he could be. And with that, Sayid took the bomb and ran to the other end of the submarine… wait. Wrong show again! Oliver fell to his knees and looked to the heavens and then…instant Karma Exorcism! The darkness wept out of him, and the Green Arrow was pure again. Later, Oliver contributed to the heroics by putting on the Robin Hood togs and froggy voice changer and sending three arrows into Darkseid’s three Death Eaters. Whole episodes had been devoted to showcasing the power of these sycophants…and the emerald archer takes them out in a super slo-mo second?!? Okay. Moving on!
Lex Luthor came back. So did Michael Rosenbaum, and in his one great scene with Tom Welling’s Clark, we got a painful reminder of what the show’s been missing for three seasons. In my eyes, Smallville was strongest when it was as much about Lex’s evolution of evil as Clark’s coming of age. It lost more than just a great actor when Lex was killed at the close of season 7, the show lost a reason to watch. Lex’s unfolding story should have paid off big time last night, too. Sigh. Whatcouldabeen. Lex had created a contingency plan in case of his death – a genetically engineered double comprised of his “best” parts, including his memories. He only needed a heart. Parallel World Lionel Luthor – also under the sway of Darkseid – sought to complete his replacement son’s revival by cutting out Tess’ own bloodpumper. But Tess got away, and then a dying Lionel offered his life/soul/body to Darkseid in exchange for magically animating FrankenLex to life (adios, John Glover), and then FrankenLex gutted Tess to spare her from becoming Bleak Like Me (adios, Cassidy Freeman), but then Tess, with her dying breath, smeared her alterna-bro with some sci-fi goo that purged his memory. I think. It was all very geek gothic ridiculous. But I did like seeing Rosenbaum (currently so funny on Fox’s Breaking In) back in action on the show that made him. Adios, Baldie. Thanks for the cameo.
Still, the last 10 minutes – full of echoes from previous Superman films, especially the first Christopher Reeve flick and Brandon Routh’s underrated reboot – were awesome, with a minor demerit for staging Superman’s climactic clash with Darkseid via the dramatically empty surrogate of Zombie Lionel and the meager metaphor of Apokolips, which was too-easily swatted away. But I loved the moment when Jor-El presented Clark with memories from his past to remind him of his identity and ground him in his true strength. I loved the suit, and I loved that Clark put it on…and I even loved that we never really got a good full-body shot. You may disagree, but it was probably for the best that Smallville made us use our imaginations to seal the deal on that visual. Besides, I loved those longshot/widescreen vistas of Superman flying through sky and saving Lois’ plane from threatening turbulence and then tackling Darkseid’s planetary dirty bomb. For anyone bummed we didn’t get The Full (Spandex) Monty, newsflash: I hear there’s a movie in the works. In fact, I even wonder if Warner Bros. wanted Smallville to play a little coy with the suit in order to prime the pump for the big screen reveal next year.
And while we’re spinning conspiracy theories about the Superman franchise, here’s another: Do you think it’s possible that “Finale” was setting us up for a sequel series? The episode ended with an epilogue set seven years later. We saw that Chloe had a kid (where was Oliver?), Clark and Lois had not yet exchanged rings (why?), and Lex had been elected president (!). Perhaps in a couple years time, in the wake of a successful relaunch of the Superman brand via the Zack Snyder/Henry Cavill movie, we’ll get a show called Metropolis that fills in the blanks of those seven years. Perhaps we haven’t seen the last of Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Michael Rosenbaum, Allison Mack, and Justin Hartley in the roles that made them famous and beloved by millions of loyal fans. But if we have: Thanks for the memories. It’s been super.